Stanford University scientists have developed a flexible, decal-like thin-film solar cell that can be attached to almost any kind of surface.
These solar cells can be produced using conventional, industry-standard materials and methods.
According to the team of scientists, the peel-and-stick method provides a simple way of integrating thin film solar cells into buildings, clothes and many other unconventional substrates.
Thin-film solar cells at different stages of the peel-and-stick process. Credit: Stanford
The cells are made by depositing a 0.3-micron layer of nickel on a standard silicon wafer, which then has a standard, hydrogenated amorphous silicon thin-film solar cell deposited on top of that. A protective polymer covers the wafer, and then a thermal release tape is attached to the top of the solar cell that can be peeled off and stuck to almost any surface.
According to lab testing, the peel-and-stick process leaves the thin film cell completely intact and retains its performance through thousands of bending cycles.
“The silicon wafer is typically undamaged and clean after removal of the solar cells can be reused,” said Xiaolin Zheng, lead researcher of the Stanford team.
“Now you can put them on helmets, cell phones, convex windows, portable electronic devices, curved roofs, clothing—virtually anything,” he added.
According to the researchers, this new process has enabled the further reduction of the cost and weight for thin film production and has enhanced flexibility and attachability for broader application areas.